Short-Form vs. Long-Form Content: Which to Use and Why
As a content writer, I am often asked if word count matters. The short answer is yes; of course it matters, but choosing long-form or short-form content should not focus solely on the number of words on the page. Instead, the focus should be on creating pieces that work collectively to get the message across effectively.
First, let’s define the difference between short-form and long-form content. Short-form content is usually between 400 to 600 words, can be read in less than five minutes, and doesn’t require extensive thought. Examples include shorter blogs, social media posts, news articles, emails, infographics, and punchy websites.
While the exact word count is sometimes debated, long-form content is more than 1,500 words — pieces such as whitepapers, e-books, guides, resources, videos, and webinars. The copy aims to be informative, insightful, and gives the reader a deeper dive into the company’s message.
The popularity of short-form content
There has been a trend towards short-form content in the last several years, mainly because it is more mobile-friendly and doesn’t require a long attention span. Busy readers can scan through the text quickly instead of dissecting in-depth information. It also looks more modern online, as long-form content has often been replaced with big graphics and pithy headlines.
This type of content is reasonably fast for marketers to create and allows them to get information out quickly and efficiently. Short-form is about keeping it simple for the creator and the reader. One of the best examples of effective short-form content is social media posts. Social media isn’t expected to keep a user’s attention for long, but it is that quick, repetitive exposure that gets the message across. With short-form content, a company can express itself with only a few words. It is a powerful strategy when connecting with new prospects and engaging with your audience.
The case for long-form content
There are several reasons that long-form content is still an imperative component of an overall marketing plan. First, Google ranks long-form pieces over short-form. This is because long-form content keeps the reader on the page longer, search queries want pages covering a subject extensively, and longer copy means more keywords.
Second, long-form content is shared more than short-form pieces. A report from HuffPost stated that articles with 3,000 to 10,000-word counts receive the most average shares. Why is this? Perhaps it is because people really do crave reading something intellectually challenging. While it is fun to share an amusing meme or a funny video, they rarely include content with a wealth of information.
Long-form content is essential, but fewer companies are doing it. Many organizations don’t have the time to create an in-depth, well-researched article; however, if it becomes a priority (and hiring a freelancer is an option to handle your long-form content needs), it gives your business a chance to stand out. Simply put, there is just less competition, and in turn, it is easier to be noticed and taken seriously.
The last and perhaps most compelling reason to create long-form content is that it is ideal for reaching a highly invested audience. If someone is taking the time to read and share a 1,500-word document, they have a genuine interest in your business. It is the perfect opportunity to share valuable information while positioning yourself and your organization as thought-leaders in your industry.
Both have downsides
Short-form and long-form content both have a lot of pluses, but they also have some challenges. Short-form can become too trivial and end up not saying anything of importance at all. It can shift to being repetitive and formulaic, boring your audience. Furthermore, short-form is often not evergreen, and interest will wane over time.
On the other hand, long-form has to stay interesting throughout to overcome short attention spans. It also takes longer to produce and is often resource-intensive. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it, as the return on investment can be exceptional, especially if the topics picked are evergreen - content that remains relevant for years to come.
A perfect content combo
Only utilizing short-form content will result in missed opportunities to inform. Only having long-form content will result in missed opportunities for connection. The trick is to do both. When your content strategy includes short-form consistently, with a few long-form pieces sprinkled in, your audience will see you as a market leader that regularly produces content that educates, informs, and helps them make decisions.
Why Customizable Content Should Be Part of Your Campaign
It is Friday night, and the entire family gathers around the TV to watch their favorite TGIF show. There are only a few channels to choose from, no remote control, no way to fast-forward commercials, and no other digital distractions. Advertisers have full access to a captive audience, and the ratings race reigns supreme.
That was reality thirty years ago, but times have most certainly changed. No longer does a family watch the same TV together on a regular basis, smartphones and social media have taken over attention spans, and the number of networks multiplies every day. Millennials don’t know a world without technology and ad clutter, and names like Google, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and even Facebook are vying for their share of TV ad budgets.
In the 80s, top shows had Nielson ratings in the 30s. That has dropped to a 9 for even the most popular programs. Today, Viewership is based on personal convenience rather than programming schedules, and with intelligent devices, advertising is happening all the time, everywhere.
Personalization of Advertising
Therefore, addressable advertising, ads that are delivered to the right person at the right time, through emerging media is gaining momentum. In 2016, addressable TV ad spends grew to $890 million, up from $400 million the year before. Cable operators are quickly improving their technology to deliver these campaigns, with around 50 million set-top boxes currently enabled for addressable advertising.
Beyond targeting by age, gender, and geography, addressable advertising and emerging media have several key benefits for both individuals and advertisers, including:
Value-Added Relevance – Instead of a one size fits all mentality, ads can be customized based on demographics, psychographics, and buying patterns. Even more personalized are advertisements shown on smart devices, as that specific person’s interests are highlighted.
Improved Engagement- Because relevance is increased, so is engagement as the creative aspects of a campaign have been tailored to the target audience. In return, it is easier to measure which ads viewers watch, skip, like, or share with their connections through emerging media buys.
Frequency Management – Advertisers want their ad to be seen as many times as possible to induce a reaction, but it has always been challenging to measure if the customer is seeing the ad, or just sick of it. Addressable advertising uses creative sequencing to determine if the ads are making an impression, or if the campaign needs to be tweaked.
Platform Sharing - Addressable advertising spans across almost every form of media that has a screen. A potential customer may search for something online, which then is reinforced by a TV ad, and then pops up as a link on their smartphone.
Measurable Results - Smart set-top boxes and devices are using software development kits (SDKs) that gather precise metrics such as ad start times, video quartiles, viewability, brand lift data, and census-based impressions, allowing advertisers to make informed decisions about their campaigns.
Traditional Advertising Has Advantages, Too
Established media like radio, print, and television still have benefits. If a product or service is more targeted to Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, then traditional media may be more effective. Television does, in fact, reach the most people and, according to the Nielsen, State of the Media report, conventional TV reaches 89% of adults every day.
Blending Traditional and Emerging Media
Campaigns that want to reach the most audience segments can combine established avenues with addressable advertising, with any size campaign. In fact, many emerging media aspects are designed to integrate with traditional media and work together to make the biggest impact. Mobile applications are now tied to broadcast media, delivering data on engagement and click-throughs. Companion applications provide extended content, allowing audiences to use their smart device either as a TV or as a secondary screen while watching regular TV. And, technology based on mapping, or geo-targeting, directly correlates location, interests, and sales when determining an advertising message.
Addressable advertising generates value for everyone involved. By empowering marketers to reach distinct targets, it encourages consumers to have a genuine experience with commercials that are more compelling and appropriate for them; therefore, developing substantial connections between viewers and brands.
And, this is only the beginning. Advertiser Perceptions states that 75% of advertisers are currently placing targeted and addressable ads, with 54% of them planning to increase their spending in the next 12 months. Furthermore, emerging media is providing advertisers more opportunities to reach consumers.
From Desktop to Device: How to Make Your Content More Mobile
We are on the go. Who sits in front of a computer to read articles anymore? We have a mobile device for that, and whether we are killing some time in the checkout line or searching for specific information on the couch, we are most likely using our phone. Content is only growing because we have more opportunities to read it. Why not make it meaningful?
To create content that will work on both mobile devices and those archaic things we call computers, you need to identify how your content will be applied. Will your content be used to inform? Give direction? Entice someone to buy?
How can businesses ensure their content isn’t lost in translation from desktop to device?
First, make sure your content loads quickly and is clutter-free. Sometimes, this isn’t in your control if there is shoddy Wi-Fi or an outdated device, but pop-ups, overbearing images, and bad formatting will cause your reader to move on...to the next business.
Your website and blog should be responsive if you want it to stay consistent, meaning it will work on any device, whether a phone, tablet, or computer, and doesn’t require a secondary URL that will need double the upkeep. A responsive website is specifically designed to scale into various screen sizes and resolutions. Because of this, your website maintains the same look and feel, and visiting your mobile site is the same experience for each user, each time, creating brand consistency and accuracy.
Will your content be different than what you have on your regular website?
Sometimes, but not always, it should be different, such as if your target is in your store where they can find a coupon on their phone that may not have popped up at home (that has to do with geo-targeting and an entirely new blog post). If we are talking about blogs, then your content should stay the same, but should it look the same? So many questions.
If you need different content on your mobile site, or your target will be searching for various terms when using a mobile device, there are effective ways to do this, such as adding a mobile URL if you need to.
What about animation and video?
If your blog, website, article, or newsletter has flash components, and you want people to read it on a mobile device, you should seriously consider whether this technology is worth it. Flash animation, video, and navigation content do not mesh well at all with mobile devices and can take away from the user’s experience and your exposure.
That being said, you don’t have to get rid of video completely. Just make it more mobile-friendly. Video is growing in popularity because it creates a more personal connection between customers and businesses. Since Flash is sometimes out of the picture, video can be viewed easier on small mobile screens, resizing automatically to fit any device, with website developer tricks. You can also link your content to YouTube if you like.
Think about the user experience
Lastly, think about your user and design your mobile page for touch screens. This means links and buttons should be big enough to tap with a finger. Make sure the button has an indent or is highlighted when it is touched so that the person knows the link is loading. Phone numbers should be click-to-call, and reorganize your drop-down menus so that they are easy to understand.
Your mobile site is no longer just an extension of your website. It is an equal partner when promoting your business. Give it some love, and your customers will love you for it.